Under normal circumstances, your stomach and esophagus are separated by taut muscle fibers called the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter allows food to enter the stomach without permitting stomach acid to come up through the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects the normal function of the lower esophageal sphincter, and can be very uncomfortable. If you suspect that you have GERD, have a doctor from Brandon Regional Hospital run some tests.
Whether or not you develop GERD depends on a number of factors, including your family’s history of the disease. Obesity, pregnancy, heavy drinking, and heavy smoking can increase one’s chances of developing GERD. Certain pharmaceuticals have also shown to increase the symptoms associated with GERD.
GERD often causes serious discomfort around the area where the esophagus meets the stomach. Sufferers may experience nausea or a feeling of tightness behind the breastbone. Many people experience heartburn that is enhanced by eating, lying down, or even bending over. Some people with GERD complain of coughing, hiccups, regurgitation, and sore throat, though these symptoms are less common.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, consider having a doctor evaluate your health. Your doctor should be able to diagnose your GERD fairly quickly. Further testing may be necessary if your symptoms are severe or if your condition doesn’t respond to treatment. During an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, a tiny camera is inserted into your esophagus, providing more insight into your condition.
There are a number of short and long-term treatments for GERD. Antacids can provide short-term relief, while lifestyle changes can provide more substantial relief. If diagnosed with GERD, you may need to avoid fatty or acidic foods and beverages. If your symptoms are not assuaged by lifestyle changes and medication, your doctor may recommend surgery.
If your digestive system is giving you trouble, make an appointment with a doctor from the Reflux Center at Brandon Regional Hospital. You can visit our website or call our Consult-A-Nurse healthcare referral line at (888) 327-2636 to learn more about our healthcare services for Hillsborough County residents.